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Is the drunk driver the only party to blame in an accident?

Did you know that the driver may not be the only legally responsible party in a drunk driving case? In fact, the establishment that served the driver to the point of drunkenness may also be held accountable if an alcohol-related accident occurs. Regulations known as "dram shop laws" exist in Connecticut to hold irresponsible servers and establishments accountable for over-serving those convicted in drunk driving crashes. Those parties may be deemed negligent in a civil case, allowing victims of drunk driving accidents to recover the damages they need and deserve.

Do dram shop laws work to discourage drunk driving accidents?

The numbers say, "yes." Some states have seen decreases of nearly 6 percent after instituting the dram shop laws. Certain accidents, including single-vehicle nighttime wrecks, have experienced even more dramatic drops.

What about the rate of over-consumption?

Dram shop laws have also helped reduce the number of drunk driving accidents because they encourage establishments to limit patrons' alcohol consumption. Dram shop rules can be applied to "happy hour" discounts, for example, preventing vendors from distributing extremely low-priced alcohol over a short period of time.

Are dram shop laws only for the victims of a drunk driving wreck -- or do they apply to the intoxicated driver, as well?

In most states, vendors are considered liable for any accident that occurs as a result of the driver's intoxicated state. Although these crashes may lead to serious injuries for innocent victims, the establishment's negligence could also lead to a single-car auto accident. Even if the driver is the only person who is hurt in a crash, the vendor could still be held financially liable for medical costs and other expenses. This is particularly relevant for establishments that serve minors.

Victims of drunk driving accidents deserve financial compensation for their injuries, time away from work and other civil claims. Although most victims may think that the drunk driver is the only responsible party, dram shop laws expand that liability. Vendors who over-serve negligent drivers should be held accountable in civil court.

Source: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, "Dram Shop and Social Host Liability," Mothers Against Drunk Driving, accessed July 15, 2015

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